Tax season can be a painful reminder of how adequately (or inadequately) you tracked and budgeted your lifestyle the previous year. Knowing how to set up budgets, goals and financial processes isn't only handy for filing taxes -- it's a lifelong skill you'll need year after year to remain financially strong.
But you don't have to be a certified financial planner to understand the basics of personal finance. In fact, there are a multitude of free resources available to help you expand your financial know-how. In celebration of National Financial Literacy month, here are a few ideas:
1. Visit your public library. Your local library is a hub of all kinds of information, including educational personal finance workshops. Public libraries across the country have stepped it up when it comes to educating their local communities, from the Affordable Care Act to helping people balance a checkbook.
For example, the Kansas City Public Library system is hosting Money Smart Month throughout April. One workshop held this week called "Teens and Money" taught young attendees about key financial concepts and saving money.
2. Find a powerful expert voice. Some of the most famous personal finance experts have achieved success only after experiencing a financial low. They're real people who have been there and done that, and have written extensively about the knowledge they gained the hard way.
Their struggles are manifest in insightful personal finance books about the best practices for managing money and planning for your future.
One example is Dave Ramsey, who coined the "7 Baby Steps" for getting out of debt in his book "The Total Money Makeover." These types of books offer a detailed look at financial remedies when challenges start to mount.
Similarly, planning ahead is equally important. Robert Kiyosaki, author of the "Rich Dad Poor Dad" series, shares how generating income through assets, such as real estate and rental properties, can help you achieve wealth in the future.
3. Take a college course. The word "college" might make you cringe by stirring up dollar signs in your mind. But not all college courses come at a price.
For example, the University of California-Irvine's Distance Learning Center provides the personal finance foundation you need to excel through an online learning platform. The free course, "Fundamentals of Personal Financial Planning," was developed by the learning center with the help of a grant from the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards. The course includes 22 lessons ranging from goal-setting to estate planning.
4. Stalk personal finance websites. More and more websites, on-air personalities and even the personal finance experts noted above have adapted social media into their outreach strategy. Follow or like your favorite finance gurus to get fresh tips on how to manage your money now and in the future.
Also, following the finance pages of news outlets on Facebook (FB) and Twitter (TWTR) can help you stay on top of current events and how they affect your wallet. By staying aware of financial news stories, you can apply this knowledge to your everyday life.
5. Get immersed in a TED talk. TED talks began as a discussion on innovation within the technology and science fields, but have since grown in scope to include topics ranging from music to money. While attending a TED conference can be financially daunting at $4,000 or more per attendee, hungry personal finance disciples can find thought-provoking finance lectures on ted.com.
This knowledge hub goes beyond humdrum personal finance topics by offering a fresh perspective on conventional advice. The concepts shared at TED talks might best serve someone who's well attuned to the basics of personal finance, but could be equally engaging for someone who's just starting with financial planning.
Whether you incorporate all of these resources into your personal finance repertoire or just one, you'll be closer to achieving tangible financial success by improving your financial literacy.
Jennifer Calonia writes for GoBankingRates.com, a source for online banking, the best CD rates, savings account rates, personal finance news and more.